American military teens face arrest over motorbike crash


Japanese rider fractured skull after riding into rope

Police in Tokyo could soon arrest four American teenagers after a Japanese woman riding a motorbike fractured a skull when she rode into a rope stretched across the road.

The four youths, aged between 15 and 18, are reportedly suspected of being responsible for her injuries.

ALl four come from US military families living in Japan and the arrests could exacerbate rising tensions about American bases in the country.

The motorcycle accident happened near Yokota Air Base in Tokyo in August.

The city's police force today denied to comment on media claims the four could soon be arrested.

And Mitsuru Takahashi, a spokesman for Yokota Air Base, said the four had not been arrested nor identified as suspects.

He added: "The US military has heard from the Metropolitan Police Department that such an incident had taken place.

"We hope that the victim will recover as soon as possible."

The alliance between the two countries has been jolted before by military accidents and crimes, including the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl by US soldiers based in Okinawa that prompted huge anti-base protests.

Japanese police have also questioned a US soldier about a fatal hit-and-run accident on the southern island of Okinawa.

Under an agreement between the two governments, US forces based in Japan are not obliged to hand over personnel suspected of a crime outside the base unless they are charged, though they have sometimes done so in serious criminal cases.

The Japanese government, led by new prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, is already arguing with Washington over the relocation of a US Marine air base on Okinawa, which is home to about half of 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan.

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